Nov 15
Print Print
Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development, and Judge Reinhold at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference

Recently, Wild Birds Unlimited was awarded second place for Best Overall Performance during the exclusive 2013 Franchise Leadership & Development Conference held from October 9 – 11, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual STAR awards (Speaking To And Responding) recognize the top companies in franchise recruitment nationwide.

The award recognizes Wild Birds Unlimited for its phenomenal performance in lead generation, recruitment and best practices in franchising. Franchise Update mystery shoppers posed as qualified prospects to judge how well, and how quickly, franchise sales and development staff replied to inquiries. The secret shoppers evaluated lead generation and recruiting practices for ease of access, response time, and follow-up. In addition, online experts evaluated franchisors’ recruitment websites and their use of social media. 152 companies were scored on telephone response to prospects, and 127 franchisors on recruitment websites and response to website prospects.

The Franchise Development Department looks for prospects that are passionate about nature and backyard bird feeding, energetic, friendly and committed to building a business and delivering the ultimate customer experience. Potential candidates are provided with a step-by-step ‘decision making process’ checklist to use as a guide when investigating the franchise opportunity. In addition, prospects are able to create a sample business plan, speak with several franchisees and visit different locations to decide if the company is a good fit.

“A strong company culture is the selling point of a great brand,” said Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development. “Our passion-driven culture of communication and support helps ensure that a satisfied and happy group of franchisees are meeting their goals using the resources and support we provide them with. Our franchisee’s commitment to their customers distinguishes them from other retailers because they are passionate about both the hobby of backyard bird feeding and their businesses. We are honored to accept such a prestigious award as it reinforces that our dedication and passion to our franchisees is highly praised and encouraged.”

For more information, please visit

Oct 17
Print Print
Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley, Nancy and Jim Carpenter

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

Richard Crossley discussing raptors at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center

CrossleyPresentation_WBU Indy

Last week Nancy and I, along with our staff at the Wild Birds Unlimited of Indianapolis store, were honored to co-host a fund raiser for the Birds of Prey program at the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. For a donation, attendees enjoyed a raptor identification program and hike with the acclaimed birder Richard Crossley. Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, award winning author and photographer. Attendees also received their choice of Crossley’s Guide to Raptors or Crossley’s Guide to Eastern Birds. We raised $1,500 for the program.

Richard also gave a presentation and had a book signing at the Wild Birds Unlimited store on 82nd. St. in Indianapolis. As you can see in the photos, everyone had a wonderful time.

Oct 11
Print Print

Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch

Rascal the Raccoon with a White-breasted Nuthatch

Are you curious about how we create our Seed Cylinder Characters like Rascal the Raccoon, Hoot the Owl, Buttons the Snowman or Preston the Penguin?

First I look for ideas that have an “it’s so cute, I’ve got to have one” response. Then I go through a series of questions to determine if the idea can actually be turned into a bird food – what bird seed and food should be used, would it attract birds and could they eat it, and is the price something I believe customers are willing to pay.

We start with a picture that I find or draw, and then we go through multiple versions to achieve the overall look, cost and appeals to the birds. With Rascal the Raccoon, our newest character, it began with this picture. We made many adjustments along the way to cut costs and to achieve the cute factor.

Initial character or Rascal

Initial character or Rascal

There is a lot of hand decorating that goes into making our Seed Cylinder Characters. When you make a character out of bird seed, you lose a lot of detail and have limitations regarding which seed and food colors are natural. We don’t color our bird seed. We choose seeds, fruit, nuts, etc. whose natural color will give us not only the look we want, but that the birds will eat. This limits our options quite a bit.

Rascal Prototype

Rascal Prototype

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

Final Rascal the Raccoon Bird Seed Cylinder

We test the new food in various areas throughout North America to make sure the birds in different geographic regions like it. At home, I have a lot of fun with my son checking what body parts the birds have eaten while we’re at work and school.

Once the character is complete, we work on naming and packaging. We get photography and video and introduce the new character to our storeowners, who then order them to sell to you.

I love feeding the birds and coming up with new ways that enhance your enjoyment of your birds.

We hope you find Rascal as adorable as we do and that you and your birds will enjoy him or one of his friends (Hoot the Owl, Preston the Penguin, Buttons the Snowman). Customers tell us they love to give these characters as gifts, especially to the person who already has everything.

Oct 02
Print Print


A few weeks ago it was my distinct honor to be one of the presenters and field trip leaders at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium in Lakeside, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie.

For hundreds of bird watchers, this gathering is a highlight of their birding year as the weekend is chocked full of speakers, workshops, a Birder’s Marketplace and some of the best fall birding opportunities in the Midwest.

But don’t think that the only attendees where crusty old birders like me. On the contrary, the largest majority was made up of people fairly new to the world of birding, and that’s what made it so much fun!

Time after time I was moved by the joy and excitement of these novice birders.

Like Christy, who while on an early morning bird hike literally jumped for joy when she found and indentified a male American Redstart all by herself. It was a outpouring of pure delight and discovery.

Or the mother from Maryland and the daughter from Colorado who I sat with at lunch. They had each driven from their respective states to meet up at the symposium. They wanted to see if this birding thing was really all that it is cracked up to be. We shared an hour of non-stop conversation about birds, birding apps and birding destinations around the country. They were obviously already hooked. Birding – what a cool way for them to stay close despite the large geographic distance between them.

And then there was the person just three weeks out from hip replacement surgery. With the encouragement of her doctor, and the support of her posse of friends, she had made the last minute decision to attend the symposium. Obviously limited in her endurance and movement, most of her efforts were spent attending workshops and presentations. At least that was until her friends took her and her wheel chair to nearby marsh with a boardwalk trail. The look on her face after a glorious morning of birding was not to be missed; and just what the doctor ordered!

Birds are cool and so are birdwatchers; they are both fun to be around and watch. I am thankful for the joy they bring to my world.

My special thanks to the folks at the Midwest Birding Symposium for letting me be a part of the fun again this year.

Jul 18
Print Print
Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

The other night, I was sitting on our screened porch with a group of friends, catching up and, of course, watching the birds at the feeders outside. One of my friends asked me about a specific feeder that happens to be exclusive to the Wild Birds Unlimited franchise system and how we came up with the design. I told him that it had to be good for the birds, good for our retail customers and good for our franchisees. His reply was “Wow…that is really complicated…Wild Birds Unlimited really has three different sets of customers to keep happy! How do you make that happen?”

It struck me that while most franchise systems don’t have the complication of three customer bases, we all have at least two different and distinct customer bases: our franchisees and the end users of the franchisees’ services… the end consumer. My answer to my friends question was “it really isn’t all that complicated when you make the commitment to be true to the brand and stick to that commitment in all of your decisions”.

Now, just because it isn’t “complicated” doesn’t mean that it isn’t “complex”.

In my opinion, one of the roles of a franchisor is to formulate and deliver easy to implement best practices that benefit the brand. This means, taking my bird feeder conversation as an example, that this new product had to be designed include features and benefits that appealed to all three of our ultimate customer bases. It had to “work for the birds” which meant that the perch sizes, seed flow and squirrel resistant features (in this case) had to be tested and perfected before the release, it had to ”work for the retail customer”, which meant that that it have an appropriate price-point, be visually attractive, fit a specific customer-need and it had to “work for our franchisees”, which meant that it had to have an appropriate margin, be easy to display, fit into our merchandise mix strategy and come with all of the appropriate marketing collateral and staff training materials. It sounds, and is, complex…but it’s not complicated.

The way that we accomplish this goal of serving all of our customers at the same time here at Wild Birds Unlimited is to constantly focus on that umbrella customer-the Wild Birds Unlimited brand- using our Mission of “We Bring People and Nature Together…and we do it with Excellence” as a filter for making all of our decisions. That focus on the brand and all of the customers that the brand serves is the only way to ensure that your brand is sustainable, always growing and exceeding the expectations of all of its customers.

Jul 12
Print Print
Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Ft. Harrison, Indiana Birding Trip during the Wild Birds Unlimited Enterprise Leadership Conference

Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners gathered in Indianapolis this year at the end of June for the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference. They came to refresh and reenergize themselves and learn about new innovations for their staff and stores. But before they got down to some serious work, some of them arrived a day early to play.

The day before the conference 50 WBU storeowners joined us for a relaxing morning of connecting with nature by bird watching at Fort Harrison State Park. Leading the trip with me was my coworker and fellow blogger, John Schaust, and a local birder and buddy of ours, Rob Ripma of

We saw a lot of birds and, as you can imagine with it being early-summer, a number of them were juvenile birds chasing their parents begging for food.

One of the biggest highlights was the Cerulean Warbler. Everyone got to see it! Which is an amazing feat for 50 people birding at the same time.

The Cerulean is a beautiful, sky-blue and white warbler that breeds in the woods of the Eastern US and Canada. It is of special conservation concern due to its overall small population size and is on the watch list to see if it may need to be placed on the endangered species list.

Other highlights included a Ruby-throated Hummingbird mom sitting on her nest as well as a Baltimore Oriole nest where mom and dad were bringing food to the nestlings.

Everyone had a fabulous time connecting with nature. Have you seen any fun bird activity lately?

May 10
Print Print


Recently Paul Pickett, Vice President of Franchise Development and Ellen Davis, Owner of the Franklin, MA store spoke with Marty McDermott, President of Franchise Interview on his radio show. Paul & Ellen explain that having a passion for the birds and nature is core to our business. Our Franchise Support Center can teach you the best practices for running a specialty retail store and will support you in your entrepreneurial efforts to own your own business. Want to own your own Wild Birds Unlimited store, click here.

Listen to the radio interview to understand what goes into running a Wild Birds Unlimited store and how we support our franchisees in our mission to bring people and nature together.

Apr 16
Print Print
Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

Immature Female Rufous Hummingbird

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder


Did you ever wonder how a hummingbird will show up in your yard and check out the hummingbird feeder or hanging nectar plant that was there last year but hasn’t been put out yet this year? How do the birds know? It’s almost like they remember the nectar-rich food source. It is amazing that a bird would remember, especially one with the brain the size of a BB. Consider what a hummingbird does each year. They migrate great distances going south to winter in southern Mexico and northern Panama. They travel as far north as Alaska and Canada for breeding. Up to a 2,500 mile trip one way. An impressive feat performed by such a small-brained bird weighing about one penny. Bird banding records show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, year after year. Males return to stake claim on the same territory as the previous year. Females return to the same tree for nesting and sometimes re-use last year’s nest. One study found a female reused her nest for five years in a row. It is amazing how the smallest bird in the world can be so formidable with its memory and come back to feed from a nectar feeder it remembers from last year.

Hang your hummingbird feeders now and keep the nectar fresh. Those amazing jewels of nature are migrating back for the summer.

Jan 23
Print Print

With the New Year comes a new season of buying trade shows for the Purchasing Department at Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) and our franchise store owners. Divide and conquer is our strategy. Staff and store owners collaborate to attend a variety of shows, review hundreds of products and merchandise lines. We look for what we think you are going to love and can enhance your enjoyment of your home, backyard and bird feeding hobby.

While show season is in full swing, here are some early trends we are seeing and might just be bringing to a Wild Birds Unlimited near you.

Neon colors look to have staying power for the season; however, the official Pantone color for 2013 is Emerald. It is a rich, bold color that conveys luxury, think emerald ring, as well as representing growth, re-birth and healing.

What we are most excited to see… owls are EVERYWHERE! This is part of an evolving trend which emerged several years ago with designers from clothing and jewelry to home interiors and furniture all incorporating birds. Could this be the year of the owl? Have you tried our Hoot the Owl bird seed cylinder? You could be trendy and didn’t even know it!

Another trend on our radar is miniature gardens. Like you, more and more people want to enjoy the outdoors and feel connected to nature. Many will be able to do this with a miniature garden that they can incorporate into their living space, deck or patio. See the photos above for ideas and inspiration.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these trends. What products would you like to see in your local Wild Birds Unlimited? Share your thoughts and ideas.

Tagged with:
Dec 12
Print Print

I started making bird wreaths back in the 90s for myself and for friends and family who loved birds and bird feeding and who were hard to buy for during the holidays. I have continued to make them for over 20 years and love this tradition each and every year. Since the invention of Bark Butter, my life has gotten easier as I no longer have to try to mix the ingredients to get just the right consistency. Over the years, I have found that after the first rush of visitors eats up all of the ornaments on the wreath- it makes a great and easy feeder for Bark Butter for the rest of the season (By the end of winter- the wreath is pretty much “done” and I feed Bark Butter on my other Bark Butter feeders).

Making wreaths is easy. You can get really creative and make them as an original, interesting gift – or just bang out a simple one for yourself.

The birds love them. It seems like they are attracted to the ‘naturalism’ of the grape wreath, and they devour it in a relatively short time in my backyard. It is a fun project for all ages and makes me feel very “Martha Stewart”-esque.

(You will have leftovers on some items)
14” Grape Wreath, about $5 at a hobby/craft store
Bag of cranberries
1 Tub of Bark Butter
3 pine cones
Wild Birds Unlimited Bird Seed Blend
13oz. dried fruit mix container
1 orange
Ever green clippings from a tree in your yard or woods
3 halves of a bagel. (
Tip cut the bagel the night before so they can sit out and dry, making it easier to spread the Bark Butter.)
Three small terra cotta pots- about 60 cents at a hobby/craft store
Florist wire, 24 gauge, in 18 – 24” length (Note: Do not buy paddle wire, you need this wire to be straight, which makes it easier to weave through the wreath.)

Step 1
Wind the florist wire around the base of the pine cones. This is so you can secure the pine cones to the wreath.

Step 2
Smear the pine cones with bark butter; use a fork and your hands to get the Bark Butter into the scales of the pine cones. Go crazy and squeeze cranberries in between the scales, then apply the Bark Butter.

Once the Bark Butter is on the cone, roll it like a meat ball or a chick pea ball for you vegetarians!

Step 3
Roll the pine cones in the bird seed blend. Press/squeeze the seed into the Bark Butter, to ensure the seed is mushed into the Bark Butter

Step 4
Secure the florist wire to the miniature terra cotta pots by running the florist wire through the bottom and over the side of the pot. Fill the pot with Bark Butter and top it with bird seed.

Step 5
Smear the bagel with Bark Butter and press bird seed into the Bark Butter and give the bagel a good squeeze.

The hardest part is securing the florist wire to the bagel. First string the florist wire with several cranberries, or pieces of dried fruit. Center the berries on the wire. Place a sprig of greenery over the center of the bagel; basically cover the hole in the bagel. Bend the wire on either side of the cranberries down 90 degrees, sticking them through the bagel, one on either side of the sprig of greenery.

Step 6
Follow the same steps as preparing the bagels to prepare the orange slices, except you do not smear the oranges with Bark Butter.

See the photo below for a variety of creative ways to prepare the foods. You are only limited by your imagination.

Step 7
Securing the food to the wreath

Start by selecting one of your foods and tying it to the wreath by weaving the wire ends through the wreath so they come out on the back side of the wreath then twist the wire tightly to the wreath so it is secure. Clip off the extra florist wire. Repeat for each food item.

Step 8
Accessorizing / Turning it into a gift
Add additional greenery to wreath in between the foods. To jazz up the wreath for a gift, add colorful bows and raffia.

I hope you have just as much fun as I do creating a beautiful wreath for the birds. Let us know how your project turns out and share some pictures with us on Facebook.

Here are some wreaths that I have made in past years that I especially have enjoyed giving as gifts and sharing with nature.

preload preload preload
Nature Blog Network